Supreme Court Sides With Baker Who Turned Away Gay Couple

Aaron Brown
June 5, 2018

The case had been eagerly anticipated as, variously, a potentially strong statement about the rights of LGBT people or the court's first ruling carving out exceptions to an anti-discrimination law.

The U.S. Supreme Court must still decide whether it will take up the case of a Washington state florist who refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.

"When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case", the opinion said, "it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires". They did not discuss any message or distinguishing element that would have made their cake different from that of any other cake Phillips might bake for any other couple celebrating their union. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the two dissenting voices.

Couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins requested a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop. But Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery and a devout Christian, refused the couple's request because he is not willing to design custom cakes that conflict with his religious beliefs. Those bakers would not bake the cake as requested and were not sanctioned by the state Civil Rights Commission.

The court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward the baker based on his religious beliefs.

Kennedy wrote that there is room for religious tolerance, pointing specifically to how the Colorado commission treated Phillips by downplaying his religious liberty concerns.

Justice Ginsburg wrote that she "strongly disagree [d]" with the Court's decision. "Anti-LGBTQ extremists did not win the sweeping "license to discriminate" they have been hoping for - and today's ruling does not change our nation's longstanding civil rights laws".

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"In this case and others, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the free speech and religious freedom First Amendment rights of all Americans", he said.

The decision went on to say the "broader issue must await further elaboration".

Rather, the court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted improperly when it said that the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver could not refuse to make a same-sex wedding cake because the body "showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the honest religious beliefs motivating his objection", and therefore did not act with "the requisite religious neutrality".

The opinion called such language disparaging of Mr Phillips' religious beliefs and inappropriate for a commission charged with "fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado's anti-discrimination law - a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation". It also reflected a conservative backlash against the Supreme Court's ruling in 2015 holding that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry in all states.

Kagan wrote a concurring opinion that Breyer joined, saying she joins the majority opinion "in full".

The decision seemed like it would be split 5-4 one way or the other, with conservative justices on one side and liberals on the other, with Justice Anthony Kennedy being the deciding vote.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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